Stanley Clarke Band: The Message
The Message may be the most stylistically diverse album that Stanley Clarke has made to date—quite an achievement in itself, considering the massive volume of work the bassist has turned out, both as a leader and collaborator, over the past four-plus decades. But the range isn’t the whole story; it would mean little if the quality didn’t hold up. And it does, throughout. From “And Ya Know We’re Missing You”—a slap-bass-heavy, super-funky co-write with rapper Doug E. Fresh, dedicated to departed inspirations from Chuck Berry and Tom Petty to Al Jarreau and Larry Coryell—to Clarke’s solo meditation on a Bach cello suite, The Message is designed to spread out wide. This is a Stanley Clarke Band album—pianist Beka Gochiashivili, drummer Mike Mitchell and keyboardist Cameron Graves are all top-notch players—but Clarke’s never far from front and center here. The reflective title track from Clarke and synth player Pat Leonard, is equal parts spare and orchestral; immediately following it, “Lost in a World” expands the list of invitees to include guitar, voices and more. It’s quiet and heavenly and makes just as much sense in the album’s context as the penetrating fusion of “The Rugged Truth” and the Latinesque rhythm of “Alternative Facts.” It’s a given that the bass playing is uniformly jawdropping all over The Message —the same mix of technique and unbound creativity that powered Clarke in his Return to Forever days is in every groove here. That he can still apply that ingenuity to everything he does is nothing short of remarkable.